22nd April, 2012
PRISON MINISTRY CHAMPION: Chuck Colson has died at the age of 80. PICTURE: Dan Wooding
"Revered by his friends and supporters, Mr Colson won the respect of those who disagreed with his religious and political views thanks to his tireless work on behalf of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families".
Statement on the Prison Fellowship website.
Prison Fellowship founder and influential evangelical Christian voice in the US, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson, died on Saturday afternoon from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.
According to a statement on the Prison Fellowship website, Mr Colson was a "Watergate figure who emerged from the country's worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry."
Aged 80 at the time of his death, he spent the last years of life leading Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, a Christian teaching and training centre.
In late March, Mr Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Mr Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. The following day, on 31st March, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain.
"At times, Mr Colson showed encouraging indicators of a possible recovery, but his health took a decided turn, and he went to be with the Lord," said the statement. "His wife, Patty, and the family were with him in the last moments before he entered eternity."
Mr Colson died at 3.12pm on Saturday afternoon.
The statement said that "revered by his friends and supporters, Mr Colson won the respect of those who disagreed with his religious and political views thanks to his tireless work on behalf of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families".
"Mr Colson maintained that the greatest joy in life for him was to see those "living monuments" to God's grace: Prisoners transformed by the love of Jesus Christ. And thanks to the work of Mr Colson and Prison Fellowship volunteers across the country, there are thousands of those living monuments among us today."
Born in 1931 outside Boston, Mr Colson was Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon between 1969 and 1973 when he became known as Nixon's 'hatchet man'. Having controversially become a born-again Christian while facing arrest, he subsequently pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his role in the Watergate scandal which engulfed Nixon's presidency.
Mr Colson spent seven months of a one to three year sentence in prison in Alabama in 1974-1975. Following his release, he founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, the same year his autobiography, Born Again, was published (it was later made into a movie).
In 1993, he was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize, worth more than $US1 million, which is given each year to the person who has done the most to advance the cause of religion.
Mr Colson launched his influential daily radio commentary BreakPoint in 1991 (said to have an audience of eight million in the US) and in 2009 opened The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview with the aim of providing online courses and "as a catalyst for a growing movement of Christian organizations dedicated to impacting the culture".
Tributes have flowed in the wake of Mr Colson's death. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the LA Times that while Colson "had this reputation of being this ruthless guy, "(t)hat is so different than the Chuck Colson I knew". "He was the least ego-driven and one of the most friendly, kind people I've ever known."
Dr Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Christian advocacy group Open Doors USA, said he was "incredibly moved" when he read his autobiography as a young man.
"As I have matured in my Christian faith, his influence has continued to encourage and direct me to my own area of influence for the kingdom," he said in a statement, noting in particular Mr Colson's influence in areas such as human dignity and religious liberty.
"Chuck has such huge influence that whenever he becomes involved in an issue, it gets noticed, and things start to happen. That is certainly the case when it comes to religious liberty. Chuck has offered a strong and coherent voice on this vital issue, both in the US and around the world..." he said.
"Truly Chuck Colson's testimony, ministry commitments, heart for people, intellectual and personal gifts, consistency, and unswerving allegiance to Christ have made him a giant in the arenas both of religious liberty and the encouragement of leaders around the world."
The Colson family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Charles Colson Legacy Fund. Condolence cards may be sent to Prison Fellowship Ministries, 44180 Riverside Parkway, Lansdowne, VA 20176. For more information, and to offer your thoughts and condolences to the Colson family, please visit www.chuckcolson.org.